Senate Reconsiders Open Access to Research

Wired covers the reconsideration of a stalled Senate bill to require publicly funded research to be made freely available to the public. (See my previous post.)

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has pledged this year to resurrect the Federal Research Public Access Act (S.2695), which would require federally funded research to become publicly available online within six months of being published.

“When it’s the taxpayers that are underwriting projects in the federal government, they deserve to access the very things they’re paying for,” said Cornyn spokesman Brian Walsh. “This research is funded by American taxpayers and conducted by researchers funded by public institutions. But it’s not widely available.”

As it stands, researchers are “encouraged” but not required to post their results in open-access journals. So they generally don’t. With limited budgets, libraries can’t afford to give the public access to all of the research it funds. This is kind of a no-brainer for everyone except the journal publishers, but libraries particularly should be interested in passing this law.

Library advocacy group SPARC is part of the lobbying effort. They link to this Public Access to Research petition. I signed.


Open Access

I attended a provocative info session on Open Access hosted by Free Culture NYU. Below, I summarize the positions of the presenters. These are their words, not mine, although I must say I was convinced.


Conference: Taking Action on Open Access
Jan. 13, 2007.
Notes by Eli Jacobowitz

1. SPARC – Heather Joseph spoke.

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.

A coalition of libraries dedicated to the dissemination of research results, reduction of financial pressure on libraries, and leverage of network and digital technologies.

The existing scholarly journal market is monopolistic and is not being constrained by market forces. Since 1986, the Consumer Price Index rose 60%, but the cost of scholarly journals has risen by 200%.

SPARC takes member library dues and creates alternative publishing models to compete. This is a market issue. In the case of publicly funded research, taxpayers pay three times! First for the initial researchers’ salaries, second for the peer reviewers’ salaries, and third for the library to license access to the journals that publish the results. The journals make average 38% profit margins.